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You probably remember the great hand sanitizer rush of early 2020. Purell, like toilet paper, was sold out everywhere, and heaps of beauty brands, whose factories already used alcohol, pivoted to making hand sanitizer. That included Chantecaille, Farmacy, Sol de Janeiro, Lafco and Biossance, to name just a few. Then, there were the few brands that already made, or already had planned to make hand sanitizer. Megababe, known for products like an anti-chafe stick ready for on-the-go use, Touchland, known solely for its high-design sanitizer, and newcomers like Paume, which did not launch until January 2021, but had been in the works since 2019.
Though the pandemic is not yet over, a lot has happened in the past 22 months. Happily, it is no longer hard to find hand sanitizer. And according to the founders of the brands that specialize in it, it is now a product people are actually excited about. Like so many other things (sexual health, dental health, armpit care, the list goes on), clean, cared-for hands, have newly become a focus of the beauty industry.
And now that sanitizer is de rigeur, the moment is ripe for a hand care renaissance — and already, there are brands lining up to fill the white space. After all, it’s often said to look at someone’s hands to know how old they are.
Amy Welsman, founder and CEO of Paume, started working on her brand’s first product, a hand sanitizer, in 2019, after becoming a first-time mom.
“When you bring a newborn home from the hospital, you become the most paranoid person ever. When we got home from the hospital, the first thing my husband did was buy giant bottles of Purell,” she said. Guests would sanitize their hands before meeting the baby, and Welsman herself was constantly doing so when changing diapers. “The bottles are so unappealing, and the formulas are kind of gross. And then I’d be touching my baby after, feeling like I had chemicals on my hand.”
These experiences led Welsman to take a close look at the category, which, in 2019, she discovered was fairly dead. She launched Paume’s sanitizer in January 2021, when hand sanitizer had become a much more crowded category. Welsman crafted a signature scent that includes notes of cedar, citrus, rosemary and lavender. The formula’s hero ingredient is Hydresia G2, an emollient derived from safflower oil, which helps the product leave hands hydrated, instead of bone dry (a common downfall for sanitizers).
Now, a year later, Paume also sells an exfoliating hand soap and a probiotic-packed hand cream. It’s carried at retailers including Credo Beauty, The Detox Market and even The Webster. Though it has long been standard for skin-care brands to offer one hand cream among a sea of body care offerings, Welsman — and her investors — believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “With hand care, we can go into nail care [and] we can go into real skin care for hands — with thoughtful, clinical ingredients that focus on issues like brown spot reduction, anti-aging… There’s a huge opportunity there,” Welsman said.
The writing is already on the wall: Fenty Skin has its Hydra’Reset Intensive Recovery Glycerin Hand Mask, while luxury brand Oribe sells a $52 hand scrub. Nail-care brands like Olive & June and Ten Over Ten offer hand-care offerings, and, based on off-the-record conversations, some other beauty brands will debut products within the hand care category in 2022.
Though Touchland and Olika still only sell sanitizer, both brands have recently introduced new formulations with an eye on the beauty and wellness savvy customer.
Touchland has become known for its easily identifiable, rectangular, liquid mist hand sanitizers. Founded in 2018 by entrepreneur Andrea Lisbona, the brand is sold at Ulta Beauty and just launched at Sephora. Sephora had an exclusive on its newest sanitizer, the Glow Mist, though it has since also launched at Bloomingdales. It uses special ingredients like Detoskin, which it said detoxifies and protects from blue light, and Vitasource, which it said boosts collagen production and improves skin firmness and elasticity.
The Glow Mist turns “a routine moment like hand sanitizer that has no glam, no love and no joy, [and elevates it] into a ritual of skin care,” Lisbona said.
Touchland is known for its variety of scents. In addition to the new, rosewater-scented Glow Mist Rejuvenating Hand Sanitizer, there are 12, plus an unscented option, Each was developed by Givaudan, a fragrance house known for working with top perfume brands like Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs.
Years ago, twice-daily tooth brushing was not the norm, but now it is, Lisbona said, adding, “Our goal is to do the same with hand sanitizer: to build a product that people want to use, where it’s part of everyone’s life.”
On February 1, Olika, a seven-year-old hand sanitizer brand owned by Amyris, the company behind Biossance, Rose Inc. and JVN, debuted a new “mindfulness” collection. The three scents in the collection — blue tansy, frosted eucalyptus and cotton flower — have been fortified with hyaluronic acid and reishi mushroom.
“One of the most common complaints about hand sanitizer is that it leaves hands cracked and dry,” said Alastair Dorward, chief brand officer at Olika. “We previously used aloe vera, but wanted to push the envelope to include one of the best ingredients for hydration. Made from sugar cane, hyaluronic acid naturally draws moisture into the skin, holding 1,000-times its weight in water. We’ve made this effective hydration ingredient our new base moving forward,” he said of the brand’s updated formula.
“Now that the panic buying is over, consumers are increasingly discerning and selective,” when it comes to their hand care products, Dorward said. “People will no longer tolerate their hands smelling like a distillery.”